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Old 03-21-2005, 03:31 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril LotR -- Book 4 - Chapter 04 - Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit

Within the first page of this chapter, Sam, Frodo and Gollum’s location changes very rapidly, from the bleak and barren vicinity of the Black Gate to the more pleasant area of Ithilien. The oppressive influence of Mordor lessens quickly as the red eye of the tower’s light disappears. Not only the hobbits’ hearts, but also the emotional atmosphere of the chapter lightens considerably. The point of view is neutral narration in part and seen through Sam’s eyes for much of the story.

I get the feeling that the two overlap in the description of Ithilien – the naming of so many plants and the vivid description of the scents and sights definitely sound like something a gardener would relate. I love this sentence (which is certainly narrative, since it uses vocabulary we wouldn’t associate with Sam):
Quote:
Ithilien, the garden of Gondor now desolate, kept still a dishevelled dryad loveliness.
How do the descriptions of Ithilien affect you when you read them?

We get a feeling of refuge in this chapter; though Ithilien is no longer a safe place, it seems safer than the lands they’ve travelled through previously. It also offers clean water and nourishment, which is a parallel to previous refuges the hobbits and their fellow Fellowship members have enjoyed. The fact that nourishment is a major plot point in this chapter shows its hobbit-centricity.

Another element of refuge is sleep, and we find Frodo sleeping deeply and restfully here. We get a wonderful glimpse of him through Sam’s eyes (with the more elaborate description of the narrator included).

The conversations between Sam and Gollum are great favourites with many fans, and book readers were pleased to have them included in the movie. The “taters/Po-ta-toes” are probably the lines most mentioned. They show Gollum in a more sympathetic light and bring humour into the tale. A favourite line of mine:
Quote:
I does ask. And if that isn’t nice enough, I begs.
Fun to use in real life…

Then comes potential danger - discovery and captivity by Faramir’s Rangers. This scene is much less hostile in the book than in the movie, characterized by courtesy on both sides, despite the mutual mistrust of strangers. This passage fills in some story elements, showing a new aspect of the battle of Gondor against Mordor (guerrilla warfare) and connecting Boromir and the Rangers, though not yet in detail. What makes the strongest impression on you – the Oliphaunt/Műmak, the close look at a fallen foeman, the battle action, or the conversations? I enjoy the bits of humour that we find in this encounter, especially chuckling over the Gondorians’ speculation on the nature of the hobbits:
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Nay! Not Elves… Elves are wondrous fair to look upon, or so ‘tis said.
What is the significance of Gollum’s disappearance here? I know the simple reason, but do you think there is a deeper meaning to it?

There are many interesting questions to ponder and discuss – I look forward to your contributions!
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Old 03-21-2005, 11:40 AM   #2
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I only have a small bit to add, I wonder if that passage when Sam sees that dead Southron on the ground was Tolkien reminiscing...
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Then suddenly straight over the rim of their sheltering bank, a man fell, crashing through the slender trees, nearly on top of them. He came to rest in the fern a few feet away, face downward, green arrow-feathers sticking from his neck below a golden collar. His scarlet robes were tattered, his corslet of overlapping brazen plates was rent and hewn, his black plaits of hair braided with gold were drenched with blood. His brown hand still clutched the hilt of his sword.
A wonderful description of this man, and even though he was "evil" so to say, I tear up when reading through it. Then we have Sam's thoughts...
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It was Sam's first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man's name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace-
The line "battle of men against men" is depressing, gets me thinking about all the past wars. We are in Sam's head, and he seems to be pitying the guy. We see him wondering if this man was truly evil, if he actually WANTED to fight for Sauron, or if he was forced into it. Another weakness of Sauron, his forces weren't united. His orcs fought with eachother, the Southrons might not have liked what they were doing, they were just frightened. Where the people of Middle-earth (especially the unity between Eomer, Theoden, and Aragorn) are actually fighting for a purpose that they believe in. It could mean a lot if you have people fighting for a cause, or something they believe in (American Revolutionists, WWII) vs. people who really don't want to fight (England, Germany).

I think the importance of Sam in this moment is to counter Mablung and Damrod's conversation earlier...
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"Aye, curse the Southrons!" said Damrod. "Tis said that there were dealings of old between Gondor and the kingdoms of Harad in the far South; though there was never friendship...Now of late we have learned that the Enemy has been among them, and they are gone over to Him, or back to Him-they were ever ready to His will-as have so many also in the East..."
Damrod and Mablung don't think too highly of the Southrons, but this is a clear example of the biased opinions of Men (which we so often see). They see these Southrons marching to aid Sauron, and don't even think about why. (But after all should we really expect them to, they are going to fight for "Him.") The point is, that they don't understand why they aided him. Damrod assumes that the Southrons were ever more excited when Sauron returned, and anxiously awaited to join him.

Where Sam comes in and acts as the neutral thought. He doesn't know about these Southrons, he doesn't know about Faramir and his rangers. As Estelyn points out Sam is the neutral narrator of this chapter. He doesn't give you the biased thinking of "They must be evil, they are serving Sauron." He gives us the other possibilities of wondering whether these men actually were "truly evil," or were they sort of forced to do it? Because of fear? They were lied to? Wealth? Power?
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Old 03-21-2005, 01:24 PM   #3
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A single red light burned high up in the Towers of the Teeth, but otherwise no sign could be seen or heard of the sleepless watch on the Morannon.
For many miles the red eye seemed to stare at them as they fled, stumbling through a barren stony country. They did not dare to take the road, but they kept it on their left, following its line as well as they could at a little distance. At last, when night was growing old and they were already weary, for they had taken only one short rest, the eye dwindled to a small fiery point and then vanished: they had turned the dark northern shoulder of the lower mountains and were heading southwards.
With hearts strangely lightened they now rested again, but not for long
Its interesting that this ‘single red light’, introduced in one paragraph has become by the next a ‘red eye’. Clearly we are meant to think of the presence of Sauron. When the travellers pass beyond the range of it’s sight they feel their hearts’ ‘strangely lightened’. In a sense they have passed out of his realm & back in to the world of Men - albeit a world that bears his mark. Perhaps what we are seeing with this ‘red eye’ is a literal manifestation of the earlier statement that Sauron watches some places more than others. He is looking for attack from the Gate. It seems that being seen by the Eye is not simply to be put in danger of capture, but it is oppressive, it makes the heart heavy, increases the individual’s sense of hopelessness - Sam certainly seems to lighten up & rediscover some strength of spirit. And now we see that Gollum wasn’t speaking metaphorically when he told the Hobbits that ‘All roads are watched’ - they literally are...

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Ithilien, the garden of Gondor now desolate, kept still a dishevelled dryad loveliness.
South and west it looked towards the warm lower vales of Anduin, shielded from the east by the Ephel Duath and yet not under the mountain-shadow, protected from the north by the Emyn Muil, open to the southern airs and the moist winds from the Sea far away. Many great trees grew there, planted long ago, falling into untended age amid a riot of careless descendants; and groves and thickets there were of tamarisk and pungent terebinth, of olive and of bay; and there were junipers and myrtles; and thymes that grew in bushes, or with their woody creeping stems mantled in deep tapestries the hidden stones; sages of many kinds putting forth blue flowers, or red, or pale green; and marjorams and new-sprouting parsleys, and many herbs of forms and scents beyond the garden-lore of Sam. The grots and rocky walls were already starred with saxifrages and stonecrops. Primeroles and anemones were awake in the filbert-brakes; and asphodel and many lily-flowers nodded their half-opened heads in the grass: deep green grass beside the pools, where falling streams halted in cool hollows on their journey down to Anduin.
I wanted to give this passage in full, if only to counter claims that Tolkien couldn’t write. This is one of the most beautiful & evocative passages of description in the whole of LotR. In one of his letters Tolkien stated that Itillien was a beautiful land & I think he made a special effort to communicate this to the reader. One can see why the Rangers of Ithilien fought so hard to defend the place & drive out the orcs. As an aside, in the documentary ‘JRRT: A Film Portrait of Tolkien’ CT remarks on the similarity of the part of northern France in which he & his wife live to Ithilien as described by his father.

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Frodo after a few mouthfuls of lembas settled deep into the brown fern and went to sleep. Sam looked at him. The early daylight was only just creeping down into the shadows under the trees, but he saw his master's face very clearly, and his hands, too, lying at rest on the ground beside him. He was reminded suddenly of Frodo as he had lain, asleep in the house of Elrond, after his deadly wound. Then as he had kept watch Sam had noticed that at times a light seemed to be shining faintly within; but now the light was even clearer and stronger. Frodo's face was peaceful, the marks of fear and care had left it; but it looked old, old and beautiful, as if the chiselling of the shaping years was now revealed in many fine lines that had before been hidden, though the identity of the face was not changed. Not that Sam Gamgee put it that way to himself. He shook his head, as if finding words useless, and murmured: "I love him. He's like that, and sometimes it shines through, somehow. But I love him, whether or no."
Well, it seems that Gandalf was right about Frodo seeming to be filled with a ‘shining light’ for those with eyes to see it. Here we see into Sam’s heart. We see his motivation laid out plain. All his own struggles & sacrifices have been made not out of a sense of service or duty, but out of love. Probably that’s why the Quest succeeds in the end. Service & duty are all very well, but one rarely lays downs ones life willingly for such things - & perhaps Tolkien would not have approved of such an attitude. Sam is willing to give his life in the Quest, but not out of a sense of ‘duty’ or ‘obligation’. He has given up everything, he had, & is prepared to give up his life for love of Frodo.

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When he thought all was ready he lifted the pans off the fire, and crept along to Frodo. Frodo half opened his eyes as Sam stood over him, and then he wakened from his dreaming: another gentle, unrecoverable dream of peace.
Another ‘gentle, unrecoverable dream of peace’. Where are these dreams of peace coming from - what is their source? Not, in all probability, from Frodo’s unconscious. More likely from the same source as his dream of the West in the house of Tom Bombadil. These dreams seem to sustain Frodo on his journey as much as, or even more so, than the Lembas. The lembas may strengthen Frodo’s body & heart but it seems these dreams are what sustain his soul & keep him going.

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You are in peril, and you would not have gone far by field or road this day. There will be hard handstrokes nigh at hand ere the day is full. Then death, or swift flight back to Anduin. I will leave two to guard you, for your good and for mine. Wise man trusts not to chance-meeting on the road in this land. If I return, I will speak more with you."
"Farewell!" said Frodo, bowing low. "Think what you will, I am a friend of all enemies of the One Enemy. We would go with you, if we halfling folk could hope to serve you, such doughty men and strong as you seem, and if my errand permitted it. May the light shine on your swords!"
"The Halflings are courteous folk, whatever else they be," said Faramir. "Farewell!"
As Esty has said, these Gondorians are far more courteous, not to say decent, than the thugs we meet in the movie. They are civilised men, fighting to uphold their values. They may be biassed against their enemies, but that is down to desperation & perhaps a growing sense of hopelessness. What we see clearly, though, is that they are good people, & we can understand them, & more importantly care about them, instantly. We know who’s side we’re on & why - & its not simply because (as in the movies) the ‘good’ guys are prettier than the bad guys. This is a battle of Good vs Evil, not a beauty contest..

Quote:
They spoke together in soft voices, at first using the Common Speech, but after the manner of older days, and then changing to another language of their own. To his amazement, as he listened Frodo became aware that it was the Elven-tongue that they spoke, or one but little different; and he looked at them with wonder, for he knew then that they must be Dunedain of the South, men of the line of the Lords of Westernesse.
And so we see that even in their speech they are on the side of the good. They speak the language of the Elves, even when they have never encountered any - ‘Elves are wondrous fair so they say’ This shows a sense of tradition, upholding the values of the past even when any connection with a living link to that past has been lost. Elves are ‘wondrous fair’ & so is their language. We see in so many ways, through so many examples, a desire to uphold, to ensure the survival of, what matters. These Rangers are fighting for something, not simply against a bunch of ugly bad guys who want to do them in.

Quote:
It was Sam's first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man's name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace--all in a flash of thought which was quickly driven from his mind.
Sam’s horror & disgust & pity are plain to see. As is the horror of war - which is not the ugliness of broken bodies & maimed souls, the wanton destruction of nature, but rather the individual tragedies it creates, the stories (if we adopt an ‘Entish’ perspective for a moment) which are stopped dead before they are full told. What we get to see through Sam’s eyes is this very thing - Sam wonders about the Swerting’s story, & how it perhaps would have turned out. We see that Sam, as much as Bilbo or Frodo, is the right one to tell us this story. Bilbo began the Red Book, Frodo continued it, but Sam will be the one who completes it, & more importantly, who tells it & begins the long chain of retellings which begin with his readings of it to his own children & continue on down to ourselves & will continue on down the years (hopefullly).

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On the great beast thundered, blundering in blind wrath through pool and thicket. Arrows skipped and snapped harmlessly about the triple hide of his flanks. Men of both sides fled before him, but many he overtook and crushed to the ground. Soon he was lost to view, still trumpeting and stamping far away. What became of him Sam never heard: whether he escaped to roam the wild for a time, until he perished far from his home or was trapped in some deep pit; or whether he raged on until he plunged in the Great River and was swallowed up.
Sam drew a deep breath. 'An Oliphaunt it was!" he said. "So there are Oliphaunts, and I have seen one. What a life! But no one at home will ever believe me. Well, if that's over, I'll have a bit of sleep."
Nature, wild & untamed (despite what the Mahuts may have thought), breaks free, & tramples men, & their little hopes & dreams into the dust, & we ourselves, like them, will never know what happens to it.
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Old 03-21-2005, 03:08 PM   #4
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1420!

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As Esty has said, these Gondorians are far more courteous, not to say decent, than the thugs we meet in the movie. They are civilised men, fighting to uphold their values. They may be biassed against their enemies, but that is down to desperation & perhaps a growing sense of hopelessness. What we see clearly, though, is that they are good people, & we can understand them, & more importantly care about them, instantly. We know who’s side we’re on & why - & its not simply because (as in the movies) the ‘good’ guys are prettier than the bad guys. This is a battle of Good vs Evil, not a beauty contest..
Nice point, and I'm glad you brought it up because I don't think I got my previous post across well. I didn't mean to come across as Damrod and Mablung being mean, but simply biased, and possibly not understanding the situation the Southrons faced. I could certainly understand their despise for the Southrons, after all, they joined the Enemy that is planning to take away any good left in the world (you've already pointed out Ithilien would be a place worth fighting for, worth saving). I was trying to get across that their view of the Southrons was opinionated since they disliked them, where Sam presents a more neutral, sympathetic look towards them.

We do instantly know that these Rangers are good (possibly even better company then some other Gondorians), and I think that is why Frodo and Sam are so "courteous" to them. Frodo's only fear would be if they find out about the Ring, but we don't even get a sense of that. Frodo has escaped "the eye," and is relieved to come upon such an admirable group of men. The movies I think portrayed it as if Frodo and Sam were "captured," which I thought was a wrong way to go about it.
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Old 03-21-2005, 04:58 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by B88
Nice point, and I'm glad you brought it up because I don't think I got my previous post across well. I didn't mean to come across as Damrod and Mablung being mean, but simply biased, and possibly not understanding the situation the Southrons faced. I could certainly understand their despise for the Southrons, after all, they joined the Enemy that is planning to take away any good left in the world (you've already pointed out Ithilien would be a place worth fighting for, worth saving). I was trying to get across that their view of the Southrons was opinionated since they disliked them, where Sam presents a more neutral, sympathetic look towards them.
I wasn't criticising your point - which I think was well made. My post was a kind of stream of consciousness thing, just writing what came to me, & was mostly doen before reading your post. I think you make an important point re Sam as a kind of objective observer of the situation, confronting the facts of war for the first time - possibly reflecting Tolkien's own emotions as a young Subaltern coming face to face with the realities of war for the first time. I think Sam's viewpoint may come as a shock to some & as out of place to others. He is showing empathy toward the 'enemy', seeing them as human beings - which is so easy to forget, particularly with the kind of mass media we have today.

I don't think this scene is in the book because Tolkien was a pacifist, & wanted to make out that all war is evil & morally wrong. My understanding is that Tolkien felt that, human nature being what it is, war is most likely inevitable. But he was a man who had seen war first hand & knew what it involved. Perhaps this is one of the things that keeps drawing us back to LotR - for all that its marketed as a 'fantasy' story it confronts us with some pretty harsh facts: like, for instance, while sometimes war is unavoidable (because some things are so precious they have to be preserved & other things so Wrong that they have to be stopped), at the same time war is ugly & real human beings will be hurt, maimed & killed as a consequence. We can't use that fact to avoid our responsibilities & let the Hitlers & Stalins have a free hand, but at the same time we can't dehumanise the 'enemy' to such an extent that we refuse to see that they are human beings like ourselves, with hopes, fears & dreams - just like ourselves....
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Old 03-22-2005, 12:26 PM   #6
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What struck me particularly from the description of Ithilien, on rereading it yesterday was how medditerranean it sounds. And having also reread the biography yesterday, I don't think he had visited that area at this point ( though I could be mistaken). I know he visited Venice AFTER LOTR was published and he thought it was like his idea of Old Gondor/ Pelargir. If I am right it is amazing how evocative this description is especially given that this was effectively pre-television and even colour film was fairly poor quality.

If this scenery is evoked by no more than thorough research in to the flora of an area then it is remarkable - especially since it is such a loving description of a landscape, fairly different to the typical English "patchwork quilt" of field, wood and hedgerow which always seems so close to Tolkien's heart. More I would say but it will have to wait.
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Old 03-22-2005, 06:38 PM   #7
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I like the moment when Sam thinks about the dead warrior he sees.
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He wondered what the man's name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace--all in a flash of thought which was quickly driven from his mind.
These questions probably also came to Tolkien's mind while he was in WWI. But in general these questions are the ones we don't want to think about too much. Therefore it is good that they are mentioned since often people like to think of the opposing side as just plain evil.

Overall I love this part of Frodo and Sam's journey. When I first read the book I loved this part because it was unsuspected. The last thing I expected was for Frodo to find friends here.Let alone Boromir's brother.
When re-reading it I like this part because its tone is so different from the darkness that Frodo and Sam have gone through and still have to go through.
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Old 03-23-2005, 12:23 PM   #8
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Tolkien and Race

Not to open a can of worms, but this chapter seems to cry out for the discussion of Tolkien and race. I don't have access to his letters, but many on this board do, so maybe some of you can shed some light on this discussion.

The simple facts of the matter are that all the "good guys" in LotR are white, and the "bad guys" are largely black/asian (those that aren't orcs, of course).

I know that the way he had ME set up the northwestern part of the continent was the closest to Valinor and therefore had the most access to elves/divine influence. The south and east (blacks/asians) were under the sway of Sauron simply by accident of their location.

This racial situation has been decried by some pundits, and contemporary fantasy is still often very anglo-centric (thought not necessarily in emulation of Tolkien)

So, any thoughts? Any illumination from the good Professor's letters on this subject? Enquiring minds want to know.
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Old 03-23-2005, 02:13 PM   #9
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We have had several discussions on Tolkien and racism in the past. I used the search to find threads on the topic and came up with these, among others:

Racism in LotR?
Racism and Tolkien
Lord of the Rings labelled racist
Can the book be considered racist?
Are Tolkien books racist?

I would suggest that general thoughts on the subject be posted on one of those threads and that only those that pertain directly to this chapter be posted here.
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Old 03-23-2005, 02:54 PM   #10
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It is easy to draw these parralels but since this is not the place for full discussion, I would say that 50 years on our minds are tuned to different wavelengths - we are far more sensitive to these things now. In short, I think the discriptions here are essentially a coincidence of geography ( as he has taken care to give ithilien appropriate flora so he gives the people of the south and east appropriate characteristics) and serve to highlight how strange and exotic the swertings are to the hobbits. I see little rascism in the thoughts of Sam quothed by Lathriel. Despite the superficial differences; the similarities, the common humanity is clearly recognised.

The fact that this is a battleof Men against Men is interesting to me, because of the problems posed by the nature of orcs. I can't be scientific about this but I get the impression that Tolkien is much more frugal about killing men - they tend to flee in terror rather thanbe slaughtered wholesale like the orcs (the implication that the orcs ARE irredeemably bad) but that too is an issue for other threads I guess.
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Old 03-25-2005, 03:26 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithalwen
What struck me particularly from the description of Ithilien, on rereading it yesterday was how medditerranean it sounds. And having also reread the biography yesterday, I don't think he had visited that area at this point ( though I could be mistaken). I know he visited Venice AFTER LOTR was published and he thought it was like his idea of Old Gondor/ Pelargir. If I am right it is amazing how evocative this description is especially given that this was effectively pre-television and even colour film was fairly poor quality.

If this scenery is evoked by no more than thorough research in to the flora of an area then it is remarkable - especially since it is such a loving description of a landscape, fairly different to the typical English "patchwork quilt" of field, wood and hedgerow which always seems so close to Tolkien's heart. More I would say but it will have to wait.
Mithalwen's comments offer me a way into a thought that has struck me as I have been reading Book Four, but especially in this chapter with melancoly condition of Ithilien, land once beautiful but now being desecrated. I am wondering how much of the geographical description really arises from Tolkien's well-known love of the countryside and how much it is a narrative necessity at this point of the plot. Does Tolkien lavish so much attention to the land because of his love or because the plot leaves him with little else to work with?

Think for a moment. The three must travel unseen, by stealth. They thus have no opposition to overcome, no direct confrontations. Or at least, there must be few and far between. Many sightings of orcs is possible, and of the Nazgul, but there cannot be actual contact or fighting, for that would destroy the secrecy which the plot demands. So, not much chance for lots of battle set up and description when the prime motivation is avoidance of contact.

The second possibility for action lies in the interaction between the three characters. We have some of this, definitely, but how to extend this over ten chapters? Again, something else is needed. And not just constant discussion of foraging.

That something else, it seems to me, has to be the extensive description of the terrain. The land becomes the formidable opponent, but it also provides a way to develop this part of the story. Ithilien provides the perfect place for such lovingly detailed passages as well because of it history. That history also provides the opportune place for one of the rare encounters, by those who still struggle to preserve the place, against the encroachments of the Enemy. Again, it cannot be Frodo and Sam and Gollem who engage with opponents, for they must remain hidden. Sooner or later, Tolkien had to bring in a new batch of good guys to do the fighting for them.

So, all that tamarisk and terebinth, the olives and the bay, the juniper, the saxifrage and stonecrop is simply and plainly a plot device.
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Old 03-26-2005, 09:06 AM   #12
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So, all that tamarisk and terebinth, the olives and the bay, the juniper, the saxifrage and stonecrop is simply and plainly a plot device.
The harshness of the landscape in Chapters 1 to 3, and the enormity of it which the Hobbits must overcome, also serves to underline just how little they are, both physically and metaphorically. They not only struggle with the logistics of getting down cliff faces but they are plunged, effectively alone, into an old and vast landscape, one which is treacherous and full of terror, as seen in the Dead Marshes. Here they are just two Hobbits trying to pick their way across the remains of an ancient battlefield, small and insignificant in comparison to what went before. We know what they carry, and just how important their mission is and therefore how far they really are from being insignificant, but the enormity of the landscape serves to remind us how vulnerable they are.

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They followed a stream that went quickly down before them. Presently it brought them to a small clear lake in a shallow dell: it lay in the broken ruins of an ancient stone basin, the carven rim of which was almost wholly covered with mosses and rose-brambles; iris-swords stood in ranks about it, and water-lily leaves floated on its dark, gently rippling surface; but it was deep and fresh, and spilled ever softly out over a stony lip at the far end.
This passage shows us how at one time, this area must have been populated, that it even had such frivolous things as gardens with water features. Yet just as we are feeling safe and that the Hobbits are in a benevolent part of Middle Earth, Sam finds the Orcs' fire and we are not only reminded of the ever present peril they are in, but we get another reminder of how Sauron's servants have despoiled a beautiful place.
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Old 03-26-2005, 11:59 AM   #13
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Oh BB, I thought the cynical "it's just a plot device" line was my speciality! Where is the romance? :P But at one level, I do agree that these chapters are thin on action and the CbC is a good way of making me look closer at chapters which despite my abiding love for Faramir, I generally skim through and which proved my nemesis on my first reading ( Like the child of Sam and Frodo's imagining, at 10, I found the fringes of Mordor too dark and didn't want to read anymore, and I had forgotten the intricacies of the other plot by the time it came to rejoin Gandalf and Pippin ).

That said, I do think Ithilien has more significance. Much of it of course, linked to Faramir, one of the characters who emerged from the story rather than as a conscious act of will on the part of Tolkien. There are paralels with the hobbit's meeting with Aragorn, chief of the Rangers of the North. Faramir, captain of the rangers of the south wears a literal mask but is soon removed. He is gold which does glister.... he is a soldier and a loremaster, scion of the noblest houses in the realm (Stewards and Dol Amroth), a man in whom the blood of Numenor runs true after years of degeneration. Also he is walking, disguied in the land which he will one day rule. However whereas with Aragorn, it is Frodo whos has to make the leap of faith to let him join them, here Faramir has to make the choice ot let Frodo go.

Unsurprisingly there is more I would say of Faramir - but I think it belongs in the next chapter.
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Old 03-26-2005, 03:39 PM   #14
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Quote:
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Yet just as we are feeling safe and that the Hobbits are in a benevolent part of Middle Earth, Sam finds the Orcs' fire and we are not only reminded of the ever present peril they are in, but we get another reminder of how Sauron's servants have despoiled a beautiful place.
Interestingly enough, this passage you refer to always makes me think about camping- and littering.

The actions of the Orks seem highly reminiscent of so many people's attitudes and actions towards the environment: a great big playground/trashcan for their own personal enjoyment.

It's well known that Tolkien read Orkish attitude in a great deal of modern society, particularly in the area of machines and technology. Have we got another example of modern Orkishness here?

Actually, when Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are following the Ork trail, I am struck in much the same way.
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Old 03-26-2005, 08:07 PM   #15
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You know, after reading Boromir88's and davem's points about Sam and his musing over the fallen Southron, it occurred to me that perhaps Sam sympathized in part because he saw himself (and Frodo and Gollum, for that matter) as though they were reluctant invaders themselves. Seeing how the Rangers felt about the crew marching north to help attack Gondor, perhaps Sam wondered if he might somehow be viewed similarly.

Regarding this most recent mention of Frodo’s more peaceful sleep as well as Sam’s pity, I would bring forward again a quote from the preceding chapter. I think it is important to this discussion and not all of us have been able to keep up with the threads.

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Yet even as he spoke his last words to Saruman, and the Palantir crashed in fire on the steps of the Orthanc, his thought was ever on Frodo and Samwise, over the long leagues his mind searched for them in hope and pity.

Maybe Frodo felt it, not knowing it, as he had upon Amon Hen, even though he believed Gandalf was gone, gone forever into the shadow of Moria far away.
This is a quote that I did not pick up on the first few times I read through the books, but I do think that Gandalf helped them along, encouraging them, even when he did not know just where they might be, and they in turn thought him dead. Maybe not as dramatically as he had on Amon Hen, but certainly as effectively.

It is interesting to note the difference between the landscape surrounding the Morannon and Ithilien, the first deserted by Men and second still frequented by them. Granted the area by Morannon probably never was lovely, it’s description seems almost lunar compared to very real beauty of Ithilien. Where the Black Gate is bleak and sickly to all five senses, Tolkien description of the rangers’ former homeland brings the place alive to all of the reader’s five senses. This description seems to highlight the beauty of Middle-Earth, contrasting it with the devastation that Sauron (and Melkor before him) would have it become. It is as if as long as Men do not give up ‘the good fight’, things may be marred but still possess an innate beauty.

To tell you the truth, I would not know a plot device from and egg beater, but I do enjoy this chapter immensely, regardless of, or perhaps because of, my literary ignorance.

Excellent observations on the parallels between the meeting of Faramir and the meeting of Aragorn, Mithalwen! I don’t believe I would ever have put that together for myself. Thanks.

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Old 03-27-2005, 10:10 AM   #16
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Ah! One other thing I had forgot to mention....

Quote:
'Ware! Ware!' cried Damrod to his companion. 'May the Valar turn him aside! Műmak! Műmak!'
Isn't this the first time that we have heard about the Valar from Mankind? I could be wrong, but it struck me as unexpected, especially given the fact that they were cut off from the elves. And it is yet another affirmation of this peoples' heritage. Despite it's decline, the Gondorians appear to have have passed down more than architecture, language and an excellent library.
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Old 03-27-2005, 01:53 PM   #17
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This chapter made me realize something. Throughout LOTR a theme that keeps on re-occuring is that of a place that was once beautiful but which is now corrupted or in its demise.
Ithillien counts of course because as the hobbits travel through the land they see pieces of buildings that must once have been very beautiful.
Also you have Minas Morgul which was once Minas Ithil but has now been corrupted by the Nazgul. You also have the city of Gondor which is also losing some of its former glory.
Plus of course the demise of the elves, and them leaving Middle Earth.
So overall you see a world that is losing its former beauty. For me this adds a feeling of hopelessness and it also makes me wish fervently that the world can come back to its former glory. Meanwhile you realize that this can only be done with the destruction of the ring.
This can also be reated to the world of today, when older people always complain about how the world used to be better when they were young. I certainly get that feeling when I hear my grandparents talk about what they used to do when they were kids.
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Old 03-28-2005, 09:41 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
The harshness of the landscape in Chapters 1 to 3, and the enormity of it which the Hobbits must overcome, also serves to underline just how little they are, both physically and metaphorically. They not only struggle with the logistics of getting down cliff faces but they are plunged, effectively alone, into an old and vast landscape, one which is treacherous and full of terror, as seen in the Dead Marshes. Here they are just two Hobbits trying to pick their way across the remains of an ancient battlefield, small and insignificant in comparison to what went before. We know what they carry, and just how important their mission is and therefore how far they really are from being insignificant, but the enormity of the landscape serves to remind us how vulnerable they are.



This passage shows us how at one time, this area must have been populated, that it even had such frivolous things as gardens with water features. Yet just as we are feeling safe and that the Hobbits are in a benevolent part of Middle Earth, Sam finds the Orcs' fire and we are not only reminded of the ever present peril they are in, but we get another reminder of how Sauron's servants have despoiled a beautiful place.
That is exactly what I meant by plot device, Lal. The geographical descriptions are not present simply because they are nice, but to serve a narrative function.

I will, however, take issue with your comments about "such frivolous things as gardens with water features". Of course any social habit or custom can be trivialised and sentimentalised, but gardens from time immemorial have had substantive cultural functions, as have water gardens and water features. One need only consider the traditions of water gardens in Middle eastern culture to recognise the significance of water to the human faculty of sub-creation. The loss of the hanging gardens of Babylon and the cedars of Lebanon stand as important cultural icons about loss. It suggests a lonely remnant of a once highly developed, sophisticated culture now lost.

I'm sure, however, that you could find frivolous garden features at the Chelsea Flower Show!
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Old 03-29-2005, 02:06 PM   #19
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I will, however, take issue with your comments about "such frivolous things as gardens with water features". Of course any social habit or custom can be trivialised and sentimentalised, but gardens from time immemorial have had substantive cultural functions, as have water gardens and water features. One need only consider the traditions of water gardens in Middle eastern culture to recognise the significance of water to the human faculty of sub-creation. The loss of the hanging gardens of Babylon and the cedars of Lebanon stand as important cultural icons about loss. It suggests a lonely remnant of a once highly developed, sophisticated culture now lost.

I'm sure, however, that you could find frivolous garden features at the Chelsea Flower Show!
Yes, they are seemingly frivolous things in this day and age - though maybe not such mere trifles as they do create places for wild creatures to live and breed, turning our gardens into welcome space for nature. But I digress...

For a culture to be able to indulge in creating such spaces, it must have the time to do so, which would mean time not devoted to war and defence such as it is at the time of the War of the Ring. So if such gardens are indeed a remnant of lost cultures, then these cultures must have lived in peace to allow them the opportunity to sub-create. This makes it all the more sad that such things have been destroyed, as it is not only the 'thing' itself which has been lost, but the peace which allowed it to be created in the first place.

It's interesting that at this point along the journey, where we see a lost culture, we also have the entrance of Faramir, a cultured man who has been required to live his life out in the 'wilds', in military service. Not only are the products of a fine culture going to seed, but also the finest minds are in danger of being lost.
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Old 03-29-2005, 03:46 PM   #20
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A garden represents peace,healing,and rest. Frodo and Sam find all this in Ithillien. They find peace and for a moment put their worries behind them, they also find rest. Especially Frodo who finally after many days is able to sleep soundly. This whole experience heals them a little and prepares them for the further hardships that are ahead.
Personally I believe that Frodo and Sam might not have made it if they hadn't gone through Ithillien. They really needed Faramir's help.But I think that I'm beginning to run into the next chapter so I'll just keep my thoughts till later.
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Old 04-01-2005, 03:54 AM   #21
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Short remark

On a symbolical plane:

Recurrent term 'garden' in the chapter and the description of Ithilien made curious connection - that is how Eden might have looked like after the Fall - still retaining remnants of its former beauty, yet already poisoned and on the road to decay.

I may be reading to deep into the book, of course.
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Old 04-01-2005, 10:13 AM   #22
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Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.
As long as you don't imply that Faramir is the serpent! Or I may have to avail myself of Fordim's gauntlet. As for Lathiriel - your comments have an extra resonance if you think it will be in Ithilien that the hobbits will start to recover from their ordeal.
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Old 04-01-2005, 09:07 PM   #23
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Mithalwen I hadn't thought that far ahead but it indeed also works for what I'm trying to say.
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Old 10-06-2018, 06:43 AM   #24
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Leaf

"Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit" is the name of the chapter, but the passage it draws itself from gets the least attention on this thread. Fair enough: Ithilien and Faramir and Mumakil are all new and exciting, while we're four chapters in to the relationship of Sam and Gollum; nonetheless, I think there was some missed opportunity here to look at our trio of travellers. The dialogue over the coneys and taters is an entertaining diversion, but it also represents the high point of trust and camaraderie between Sam and Gollum, when Sam has sort of become used to him and before Gollum thinks himself betrayed at Henneth Annun. Sam's internal thoughts about Gollum's well-being as the battle begins are of a piece with this.

Nonetheless, it's interesting that Tolkien names the chapter for this incident. I don't think there's been much discussion about chapter names, because most are pretty straightforward: "Lothlorien" or "The Council of Elrond" for example. Others are more thematic, but still make sense as the major scene or theme of the chapter, such as "A Conspiracy Unmasked" or "The Taming of Smeagol." To this stage, however, there's no chapter title that's quite as... synechdoche like... as this. Is Tolkien telling us what he thinks the most important part of this chapter is, or did he just think "Ithilien" was too boring a title?

Side-note: "dishevelled dryad loveliness" is one of those beautiful Tolkien phrases that has become a staple of my wordhoard.
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